American businessman Vince McMahon has been reportedly planning to sell his wrestling promotion company WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). The 77-year-old founder made a shock return on January 6 after announcing his retirement last year in July amid an ongoing controversy. Understandably, most of the events in the program are part of the show but recent development suggests real-life crisis.
McMahon faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and using company funds to buy the silence. He retired amid the widespread backlash only to return after 6 months. During his absence, his daughter Stephanie McMahon served as the chairwoman while newcomer Nick Khan got an early promotion as the co-CEO.
Vince McMahon Returns to Sell WWE
Stephanie took a leave of absence in 2022 but had to return 3 weeks later due to reports against her father. Vince was forced to step down as the CEO and chairman amid an investigation into the allegations that he paid 19.6 million USD from company’s funds to at least 4 former female employees in exchange for them to keep quiet about sexual misconduct. However, he had suddenly returned with a goal to sell the company, claiming to “maximize value for all WWE shareholders”.
Ever since Vince returned, 3 board members have been removed and other 2 voluntarily resigned. His own daughter eventually turned her leave of absence into an official resignation. Her husband Paul Levesque (Triple H) will reportedly carry on as the Chief Content Officer.
Moreover, Triple H re-hired most of the superstars that were released by Vince during COVID-19 pandemic. These names include Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Dakota Kai, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Mia Yim, Candice LaRae, and Johnny Gargano. Vince’s return could mean disaster for these fan favorite performers. Over 100 wrestlers were let go from 2020 to 2022 but the company turned it around under Triple H’s administration. His fresh take on storylines was engaging the audience again after years of poor leadership and creative decisions.
Rumors of Saudi Arabia Takeover
There have been persistent rumors about WWE being sold to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the owner of English Premier League football club Newcastle United. However, such reports are not yet verified. WWE’s controversial 10-year partnership with Saudi Arabia runs till 2027. International observers and fans have long criticized this relationship for limiting women’s performances. Shows in Saudi Arabia seldom included women match ups and forced them to wear full-bodied gear while performing in the ring.
Many wrestlers disclosed their wish to leave the company if it was sold to Saudi Arabia. This discontent intensified after WWE’s 2018 show “Crown Jewel” in Jeddah amid an ongoing investigation into disappearance and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) faced international backlash for allegedly being the mastermind behind the journalist’s killing. KSA was accused of whitewashing its image by holding live WWE events in the Middle East. Moreover, the Saudi government also faced criticism due to racial discrimination after asking WWE to remove Rami Sebei (Sami Zayn) from the shows in the Kingdom due to his Syrian ethnicity. A potential Saudi ownership could mean disastrous for WWE fans and superstars but lucrative for Vince and MBS. The Crown Prince has been working to achieve his “Vision 2030” plan to modernize the nation and reduce its economic dependency on oil.
The sale can make the company private which a case of concern for many fans. As the public company, Vince was only involved in business deals. However, if the company goes private, he could take over as the Head of Creative despite the scandals. Simultaneously, he would no longer be answerable to shareholders or disclosing financial information.
According to analysts, the sale process would take much longer than few weeks. WWE has currently hired financial services giant JP Morgan to get advise on the sale. Several experts have named couple of organizations that can get the deal that could be worth 7 to 8 billion USD.
One of the potential buyers is the telecommunication company Comcast Corporation and the other is WWE’s fiercest rival AEW (All-Elite Wrestling).